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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court

No. SCWC-12-0000020, Thursday, April 3, 2014, 11:15 a.m.

(2nd Amended 02-27-14)

STATE OF HAWAI`I, Petitioner/Plaintiff- Appellee, vs. LINCOLN PHILLIPS, Respondent/ Defendant-Appellant.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee: 

Stephen K. Tsushima, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Attorney for Respondent/Defendant-Appellant: 

Randall K. Hironaka of Miyoshi & Hironaka

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr., filed 12/09/13.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Court Judge Rhonda A. Nishimura in place of Acoba, Jr., recused, filed 12/20/13.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 01/16/14.

NOTE: Order granting motion to continue oral argument from 03/13/14 to 04/03/14 at 11:15 a.m., filed 2/24/14.

COURT: MER, CJ; PAN, SSM, & RWP, JJ; Circuit Court Judge Nishimura, in place of Acoba, Jr., recused.

 [ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee the State of Hawai`i (State) has applied for a writ of certiorari from the Intermediate Court of Appeals’s (ICA) October 10, 2013 Judgment on Appeal filed pursuant to its August 30, 2013 Summary Disposition Order (SDO). On the night of September 3, 2008, Respondent/Defendant-Appellant Lincoln Phillips (Phillips) called the police to report that he had found his wife Tara Phillips (Complainant) in their home, suffering from injuries to the head. Complainant survived the attack, but died 18 months later. Phillips was charged with Attempted Murder in the Second Degree. At trial, the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court) permitted the admission of two pieces of evidence recovered from the Phillips’s home without a search warrant: a hammer and Phillips’s clothes. The circuit court concluded that the hammer was admissible under the plain view exception to the warrant requirement and that the clothing was admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine. The jury convicted Phillips and he was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The circuit court also ordered Phillips to pay $6,530 in restitution for Complainant’s funeral and transportation expenses.

Phillips appealed to the ICA arguing that the hammer and clothes were inadmissible and that the circuit court erred in ordering restitution for expenses related to Complainant’s death. The ICA majority held that the circuit court erred in admitting the hammer under the plain view exception to the warrant requirement, vacated Phillips’s conviction, and remanded the case to the circuit court for a new trial. The majority further concluded that Phillips’s other points on appeal were moot.

In its application to the Hawai`i Supreme Court, the State raised two questions:

A. Did the ICA majority gravely err in holding the circuit court was wrong by not suppressing the evidence of the hammer?

B. Did the ICA majority gravely err in concluding that [Phillips]’s other points on appeal are moot, and thereby, fail to render a decision with regard to: (1) the evidence of clothing recovered from a trash can in [Phillips]’s garage, and (2) the circuit court’s order of restitution of $5,730 in funeral expenses and $800 in costs to transport wife’s body, for a total of $6,530?